Strokes: Drawing test 'may predict risks in older men'

 
Trail Making Test Drawing lines between ascending numbers- the test needs to be done as fast as possible

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A simple drawing test may help predict the risk of older men dying after a first stroke, a study in the journal BMJ Open suggests.

Taken while healthy, the test involves drawing lines between numbers in ascending order as fast as possible.

Men who scored in the bottom third were about three times as likely to die after a stroke compared with those who were in the highest third.

The study looked at 1,000 men between the ages of 67 and 75 over 14 years.

Of the 155 men who had a stroke, 22 died within a month and more than half within an average of two- and-a-half years.

The researchers think that tests are able to pick up hidden damage to brain blood vessels when there are no other obvious signs or symptoms.

Silent injury

Dr Clare Walton, from the Stroke Association, said: "This is an interesting study because it suggests there may be early changes in the brain that puts someone at a greater risk of having a fatal stroke.

"This is a small study and the causes of poor ability on the drawing task is not known. Although much more research is needed, this task has the potential to screen for those most at risk of a severe or fatal stroke before it occurs so that they can benefit from preventative treatments."

Dr Bernice Wiberg, lead author from Uppsala University in Sweden, said: "As the tests are very simple, cheap and easily accessible for clinical use, they could be a valuable tool - alongside traditional methods like measuring blood pressure (and) asking about smoking - for identifying risk of stroke, but also as a possible important predictor of post-stroke mortality."

She also suggested it could help improve information given to patients and their family.

More than 150,000 people suffer a stroke every year.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 86.

    It could help all those with decent vision it could perhpas be enhanced to help those who have visual difficulties such as cataracts AMD etc by expanding the study to get a figure/time where this again becomes more likely.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 85.

    Is there any way to predict that I might drop dead QUICKLY from a stroke or heart attack, or instead suffer a slow lingering death? I am not frightened by the thought of sudden death but I am deeply concerned about the possibility (probability?) prolonged misery.

    Jack (aged 73)

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 84.

    I did this test as part of a battery of them during a session with a neurological psychologist, because I reported some short term memory issues after developing epilepsy.

    It could be done by a medical profesional in minutes, perhaps by their GP, at regular intervals after a stroke, with the results then collated by a Neurologist. Any deterioration could be flagged as a cause for concern.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 83.

    Why you should do brain teasers, more of the brain is in use, therefore theres more reserve capacity to pick up the slack, when brain is damaged via stroke.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 82.

    Hello, probably nobody will want to read this, some will disagree with me if they do, and others will say WHY BOTHER ABOUT IT?
    well 12 years ago my husband had a MAJOR stroke. We were told to expect the worst. He has had two smaller TIA type & despite being hemiplegic he has an interest in life. He recently survived a heart attack and got hospital pneumonia. People do survive.
    with tlc and care

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 81.

    Over half who had a stroke died - sroke victims 155 - say 80 died. Small sample, unlikely to be statistically significant. Using the 3 times more likely to die factor,and simple maths, it can be shown that only if 12-15 of those who died were in the top 3rd of the test would the assertion of the researches make any sense. Far too small a range from which to draw any conclusions. Bad bad science.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 80.

    In case anyone is interested here is a link to the paper:
    http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/2/3/e000458.full

    Although, this is really not worth too much to a non-specialist so wouldn;e recommend reading and the number of statistical adjustments needed is large.

    The dot-to-dot test appears to be a standard dementia test so link not so much to hidden factors but already failing brain function.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 79.

    #47,
    It's called love.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 78.

    The principle is sound: undetected vascular problems can lead to reduced neurological function in apparently healthy people. This test may identify those people (or those who already had strokes too small to be detected by CT). While it appears to predict those who will have a poor outcome , more importantly it could allow people who test poorly to be monitored as at risk of a stroke

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 77.

    'Three times more likely' is once again one of those headline figures which means absolutely nothing. If the chances of someone dying are 0.001% and for those who fail the test it is 0.003%, that is 'three times more likely' but it's also 'very unlikely indeed'. Without the actual numbers, 'three times more' is entirely meaningless.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 76.

    "A simple drawing test may help predict the risk of older men dying after a first stroke"

    Unless there is a breakthrough I don't know about, the risk of death is 100%

    The phrase should have been "because of" not "after"

    As for picking up hidden damage - you would need to find it in people who'd not had not yet had a stroke too.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 75.

    @ 22. muadib2

    "When did ignorance masquerading as cynicism become socially acceptable?"

    Well said. This is a question I have been asking myself for years. When did it become "cool" to not know stuff and not want to find out or expand our knowledge? I just hope the general view on these boards is not representitive of the population as a whole, otherwise we're in trouble.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 74.

    Is the slower completion speed (of the test) a sign of underlying damage to the brain, etc (which, in turn emphasises the impact of the stroke, and result in quicker death, as highlighted in the article), or simply a sign that someone slower in joining the dots is likely to be slower to respond to the symptoms of a stroke (which, from the FAST campaigns, makes a massive difference)?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 73.

    "So the tests are very simple, cheap and easily accessible. Have they been circulated to the wider medical community including general practice to collate further evidence to substatiate what appears to be a very tenuous piece of work?"
    This test has been widely-available for years and many neuropsychology departments may even have retrospective data that could be examined.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 72.

    What next? Persons who can't do The Sun crossword in less than 10 minutes have a 68% chance of getting dementia. The mind boggles.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 71.

    The cynical comments on here are coming form the growing number of people who are sick of a health industry which is not driven by a desire to heal, but by a desire to create pharmaceutical profit & overpaid jobs on the misery of others.
    Watch this to see how the health industry works 'http://www.3news.co.nz/Living-Proof/tabid/371/articleID/171328/Default.aspx'.
    There is no profit in cures.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 70.

    Perhaps there's a little too much interpolation in this study. They say themselves that the study does not explain itself adequately. With that said; if it can be used as an accurate gauge then it's all for he better.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 69.

    68.angry_of_garston - "If the results of the test are to be believed then what does the patient gain from the knowledge other than the fact that they are unlikely to survive a stroke hanging over their head like the sword of Damocles?"

    How about chance to put their affairs quickly in order & say their goodbyes before it's too late & they just drop dead suddenly one day...???

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 68.

    If the results of the test are to be believed then what does the patient gain from the knowledge other than the fact that they are unlikely to survive a stroke hanging over their head like the sword of Damocles?

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 67.

    So the tests are very simple, cheap and easily accessible. Have they been circulated to the wider medical community including general practice to collate further evidence to substatiate what appears to be a very tenuous piece of work?

 

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